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Recovering from the storm: Advice from a Brookhaven insurance agent

Dealing with a fallen tree on your home during a winter storm is not something anyone wants to do. But if you have to — or if you have to deal with any clean up or repairs involving your home — there are some dos and don’ts for your clean up and recovery efforts.

First, contact your insurance agent. He or she will get your claim started and help you through the process.

Then take pictures. Document the damage with photos or video and make a list of damaged or missing items. If you recently made a home inventory, compare losses and damages with your inventory list. These records will help when processing a claim.

Brookhaven native Sam Sones has been an insurance agent at Farm Bureau Insurance on Cherokee Street for 13 years, and has worked with many people navigating the process.

“One very important thing is that if you have damage to your home, or a leak where a number of items are very wet, you need to go ahead and take the measures you need to take to address those issues,” Sones said. “But always take pictures.”

In an age of smartphones, Sones said, just about anyone can take clear, panoramic photos of a room or area, or even a clear high-definition video that can be submitted to an insurance adjuster. It’s the best way to protect your property until an adjuster can contact you, he said.

The winter storm that struck the area earlier this week has resulted primarily in water leak claims for Sones’ office — he alone filed more than two dozen claims Thursday and Friday morning.

“The most common claim we have filed this week is from water leakage claims — leaks coming through ceiling fans, fixtures in the ceiling or just the ceiling itself, stemming from moisture or water on roofs,” he said.

Ice creates jams at junctures in a roof, causing melt-off or rain runoff to divert or back up under shingles. About four out of five calls to the Farm Bureau office this week have been for those type problems. Some of those claims may involve a fallen limb that has caused a roof puncture, but most will not be, Sones hopes.

“My advice is to file a claim anyway, or let your agent file for you, because I would rather you be in touch with an adjuster just in case there is actual roof damage,” he said.

Policy owners should also review if they have an “All-Risk Peril” or “Named Peril” policy. All-risk policies cover anything not specifically excluded by the contract, while named peril policies cover only what has named in an inventory list submitted to the insurer.

“It could have a lot of impact on what’s covered,” said Sones.

Some claims in Brookhaven and Lincoln County have also stemmed from fallen trees or limbs that have damaged or crushed shops or storage buildings, or caused gutters to fall off buildings.

Another thing to keep in mind is possible liability, Sones said. If a tree is down on your property or has fallen from your property onto someone else’s or into a public area, the agent advises keeping everyone away from it until professionals can address the issue.

“Report it to the correct authorities, and obviously don’t encounter a downed line,” he said.

Farm Bureau Financial Services also recommends keeping detailed notes, tracking expenses, asking lots of questions and selecting contractors carefully.

While Sones and other agents have been busy trying to help policy holders this week, he said the tough jobs are not being done by agents.

“The real work is being done by our adjusters. They’re in the trenches having to work every single one of those claims,” he said. “They are really the saving grace in these storm situations.”